Time runs against the slothful and careless | Inquirer Business
Property rules

Time runs against the slothful and careless

Daddy Tacky and Mommy Gina have three children: Fin, Trin and Fau. In 1942, the spouses executed a deed of donation propter nuptias (Inventario Matrimonio) in favor of Fin and his bride, Fortune, donating a carabao and three parcels of land, among others, in celebration of their marriage. Fin and Fortune issued a receipt to Daddy Tacky showing their acceptance of the donation. Immediately thereafter, they occupied and took possession of the subject land in the concept of an owner.

After the death of Fin in 1964, the children of Trin and and the children of Fau presented a Deed of Succession and Adjudication dated December 1993. The said deed stated that one of the lands donated earlier to Fin and Fortune was subdivided into three lots: A, B and C which bore a signature of Daddy Tacky. These lots were then adjudicated among the heirs of Daddy Tacky and Mommy Gina to all of their children.

On the basis of the above document, the heirs of Trin and Fau, through Ernie filed a petition for issuance of a second owner’s duplicate copy of the original title. He averred that he is one of the heirs of Daddy Tacky and Mommy Gina, and was in possession of the duplicate copy of the title which he lost. The trial court granted the petition; hence, a duplicate copy of the same was issued to the children of Trin and Fau.


Fortune and her children, heirs of her deceased husband, Fin, filed a Complaint for Quieting of Title, Declaration of Nullity of Document and Surrender of Title with Prayer for the Issuance of the Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order 14 which was later on amended. They claimed ownership over the subject land by virtue of donation. They further claimed that the succession and adjudication are null and void and that the signature of Daddy Tacky was forged because he had already died way before the said deed was executed. Also, the thumbmark of Fin appearing on the deed was spurious as he never appeared before the notary public to acknowledge the same.


The heirs of Trin and Fau, on the other hand, claimed that the donation propter nuptias is void for there was no valid acceptance. It is likewise spurious and fake because the signatures therein were forgeries. Moreover, considering that the spouses Daddy Tacky and Mommy Gina donated all their properties to Fin and Fortune, it violated the rights of other heirs over their legitimes.

Q: Was it a donation propter nuptias? Is the Donation Propter Nuptias executed in this case valid or void?

A: Donations propter nuptias or donations by reason of marriage are those “made before its celebration, in consideration of the same and in favor of one or both of the future spouses.” Under Article 1328 of the Old Civil Code, a donation propter nuptias must be made in a public instrument in which the property donated must be specifically described. In other words, such donation must be in a public instrument otherwise it is void. Thus, pursuant to the aforementioned rule, the Inventario Matrimonio executed in 1942 by the spouses Tacky and Gina in favor of the spouses Fin and Fortune is indeed void as it was not notarized, hence, not a public instrument.

Q: Is the donation propter nuptias still be of use considering that it is void?

A: Yes. Despite the fact that the donation propter nuptias is void, it can still serve as a legal basis of adverse possession sans noncompliance with the formal requisites. A private document of donation can be the basis of a claim of ownership if there is clear and convincing evidence of possession, like in the instant case. In fact, Fortune and her family’s possession of the subject land had ripened into ownership not because of acquisitive prescription but only because of laches. Thus, there are two kinds of prescription: (1) the acquisition of a right by the lapse of time, or acquisitive prescription; and (2) the loss of a right of action by the lapse of time, or extinctive prescription.

Q: What is the difference between laches and prescription?

A: Laches is defined as “the failure or neglect for an unreasonable or unexplained length of time to do that which by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier warranting a presumption that he has abandoned his right or declined to assert it.” Prescription, on the other hand, refers to the failure or delay to assert a claim within the period prescribed by law.

Prescription deals with delay itself and thus is an issue of how much time has passed. The time period when prescription is deemed to have set in is fixed by law. Laches, on the other hand, concerns itself with the effect of delay and not the period of time that has lapsed. It asks the question whether the delay has changed “the condition of the property or the relation of the parties” such that it is no longer equitable to insist on the original right.

Q: How come acquisitive prescription is not applicable in this case?

A: It is because acquisitive prescription is inapplicable since the subject land in this case is a registered land. Section 47 of Act No. 496 already declared that a registered land is not subject to prescription.


Q: What then is the basis to hold that Fortune and her family own the subject land?

A: The peaceful, uninterrupted, and adverse possession by the spouses Fin and Fortune of the subject land for 50 years had ripened into ownership by reason of laches. As aptly stated, for time is a means of dissipating obligations and actions, because time runs against the slothful and careless of their own rights. Truly, the law serves those who are vigilant and diligent, not those who sleep when the law requires them to act. The following are the essential elements of laches that are present in this case: (1) conduct on the part of defendant or one under whom he claims, giving rise to the situation complained of; (2) delay in asserting complainant’s right after he had knowledge of the defendant’s conduct and after he had an opportunity to sue; (3) lack of knowledge or notice on the part of the defendant that the complainant would assert the right on which he bases his suit; and (4) injury or prejudice to the defendant in the event relief is accorded to the complainant. All these elements are present in this case.

(Source: Lorenzo, et al. vs. Esutaquio, et al., G.R. No. 209435. August 10, 2022)

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The author is Dean of Lyceum of the Philippines University; Chairman of Philippine Association of Law Schools; and founder of Mawis Law Office

TAGS: Business, Property Rules

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